Covid-19 crisis a test of political leadership

As the number of cases in Kazakhstan creep close to 7,000, the impact of Covid-19 on the country is comparatively more measured than others that have been battered by the disease.
Nonetheless, Kazakhstan is taking notes from world leaders and learning from best practices as it seeks to send a calm message of reassurance to its people.
As the world continues to confront the spread of Covid-19 and its severe impact onthe lives of people, governments need to put up a coordinated approach to rally people to unite in fighting the virus. How the pandemic has unfolded in different countries have shown the importance of political leadership.
Some cities have implemented lockdowns successfully and with few problems. Yet, in other places, lockdowns have led to raging protests with demonstrators demanding the restrictions to be eased and closed businesses to resume.
Countries that have managed to stay calm amid the pandemic appear to have some common traits – quick and decisive leadership, clear policies and effective communication strategies.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been applauded for her quick leadership style and clear, consistent messages. She has also hosted Facebook Live chats to communicate with people on why self-isolation is necessary.
In Singapore, which has managed to bring down the level of community spread, its government assembled a multi-ministry taskforce as early as December and the team frequently gives updates on the coronavirus situation in the city-state.
In this time of crisis, former president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev (above), who stepped down from the top post last year after 30 years at the helm, has issued a timely statement providing support and guidance on the country’s response to Covid-19.
He laid out the challenges the country could face: Large-scale recession and unemployment and businesses to be hit hard.
But the government is prepared to deal with it by rolling out a stimulus package and support measures, he added. He called on people to support the stimulus package and support measures announced by the government and President Kassym-Jomart Tokaev (below).
Addressing critics who had once called for Kazakhstan’s reserves to be redistributed to the people, Mr Nazarbayev said it is precisely the country’s wise and prudent management of resources that has allowed it to deal confidently with black swan events like a massive virus outbreak.
In particular, the strategies that Mr Nazarbayev had pursued during his term as president – establishing a diversified market economy, lending support to small and medium-sized businesses and investing in industry and infrastructure have allowed Kazakhstan’s economy to grow steadily and healthily.
Despite having rich oil and mineral resources, these sectors have been hard hit due to a global slump in demand. The country has stepped up on its Kazakhstan-2050 Strategy, which seeks to define new markets and woo foreign investors, to diversify the economy and reduce reliance on the energy and minerals sectors.
Reforms to improve Kazakhstan’s infrastructure and agriculture sectors have also seen the country grow to rank among the top six grain exporters globally.
In firm, reassuring words, Mr Nazarbayev told citizens that no one would be left without support.
As Kazakhstan’s longest-serving president and a familiar and reassuring presence for all Kazakh households, his statement was timely and encouraging, as he urged citizens to unite and fight the virus together.
But getting through the crisis intact is just a first step. Mr Nazarbayev pointed out that the world will urgently need to collaborate and cooperate with one another to overcome the pandemic and contain the devastating economic fallout it has brought in its wake.
This is the only way the world economy can forge forward as it works out a way to return to a new normal that is sustainable, where some levels of trade and economic activity can be maintained.
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